My whole life I have been average at a lot of things.

But for the last year, God has been pruning my life down to just a few things that I'll hopefully be great at. I deleted my Facebook and Instagram accounts, got rid of my TV, and am trading them for reading more books, writing letters, getting outside, learning, playing music and living in the moment with the person right in front of me.  I am weary from building dozens of little twig forts all around me, and am ready to spend my days building on one eternal fortress. My life is a mile wide and an inch deep, but needs to be an inch wide and a mile deep; so I'm clearing off all the clutter on my plate, and making space to think; many of those thoughts which I have shared on this blog. It's time to embrace quality, not quantity. Time to live more simply.

To start, I dare you to watch this entire video:

We live in the busiest generation that has ever existed, but also the laziest. Microwaves. iPhones. We've all heard it.

If you made it through that video (or even pressed play), you beat the majority of your contemporaries (although, since you clicked on a link on how to simplify your life, you probably rose to the occasion as a defiant first leap in that direction). The problem is here. Our lives are overly complex, and we feel trapped. 

The level of complexity we have stumbled upon in our lives is like falling in Devil's Snare.

The more we struggle against all of the social media platforms, Donald Trump news stories, and expectations to have the eating and exercise regimen of Cameron Diaz, the more it strangles us. The truth is, the only way to beat it is to be smart like Hermoine: close your eyes, totally relax, forget that you are getting squeezed to death, and eventually it will let you slip between its slimy tentacles. 

Let me add a significant side note: the main way, or maybe the most damaging way, we have become so overloaded? Social Media.

This video explains it better than I can:

Get a Toaster Oven

There was a time when people grew up in very small worlds. People rarely traveled beyond their town, had a handful of friends, family was incredibly important, and the family business was likely your trajectory as a trade. This had its pros and cons. Pros were deep living. Deep roots. Deep relationships. Intentional living. Survive. Love. Work. Sometimes play. Cons? Sheltered upbringing. Ignorance. Unsympathetic outlook on 'others'. With our modern day we have globalization, a fancy word which sums up the fact that if a earthquake happens in Bangladesh right now, I can now about it in 10 minutes; and with it our eyes can see as far as we wish. Pros? We are well informed, and more tolerant of diversity. We are more well rounded. We have wikipedia. WebMD. We have bigger dreams. Better opportunities. Progress in healthcare and charity.

Globalization Cons? Its sensory overload. There are too many options. Its like putting a candy store at an elementary school and telling the kids everything is free, but if they want to be successful they should attend classes. There is too much to do and not enough time. Too many opportunities and only so many we can take. We see all everyone is doing around us in the world, on pinterest, on instagram. How can we keep up? Its like keeping up with the Jones' on steroids. Keeping up with the Jones' used to mean keeping up with your next door neighbor, but now its keeping up with the body of your friend on Instagram who takes pictures of herself doing yoga, the craftiness of the thousands of pins of how to make an office look Pinterest account, and the level of safety from the warnings your mom sends you on Facebook. Meanwhile we are receiving text messages from our siblings while we Snapchat to friends telling them that we are Facetiming with our significant other who is out of town. Too many. Too much. And its wearing us thin. 

I have been staying at my sister's house for the past few weeks while we interview for positions in Charlotte, and she doesn't have a microwave. She has a toaster oven. At first, I was thinking "Seriously? I just need to heat up some leftover pizza. This is ridiculous." Then she told me how to use it. And that was the day I had the best leftover pizza of my life. It made the cheese melty, the crust crispy, and it only took 3 minutes. It's like an oven and a microwave had a tiny, cute, quick-cooking oven-baby. My point is this: Christians are meant to be counter cultural. Does that mean we have to go hide in a cave and wait for the apocolypse? No. But we should be discerning before we swallow every pill that popular culture feeds us, and prayerful in how we use the tools modernization provides us. 

Christians aren't meant to be inches thin but miles wide. The summary of our reason for existence is pretty simple: Love God. Love others (Matt 22:36-40). And the love I see Jesus exemplify was deep, costly love. Not wide and cheap. 12 close friends. 3 best bros. A few gals on his inner circle he spent serious quality time with. One mommy dearest. 

My whole life I have been average at so much, great at not much; which I believe is the story of much of my generation. Thom Yorke said “Most people gaze neither into the past nor the future; they explore neither truth nor lies. They gaze at the television." There are some great things to take from the progress of our modern times, and we should keep those. But not at the cost losing simple living. Focused living. Or we might miss fruitful living.

Pruning, for More Fruitful Living

“My Father is the gardener. He takes away every branch that does not bear fruit in me. He prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit" (John 15:1-2).

Pastor Alex Seeley of my old church, the Belonging, spoke this beautiful message on pruning. Pruning is the gardening term for cutting away the branches or chutes on a plant that are not necessary so that the plant grows better. Not everything that is natural is needed. Vinedressers that tend to grape vines will take the dozens of vines that come up and prune them down to just 3 main vines. And then those 3 vines are pruned down further, just as verse two says of John 15. Now all of these vines would have produced fruit, so you may ask yourself "Why? More is better, right?" The reality is that we could eat the grapes off of an unpruned vine, but they would taste watery, and their nutrients would be diluted. By pruning off the weaker or undesired vines, the stronger, healthier vines get the redirected nutrients from the soil, which results in a fruit more rich in flavor and that's more healthy. 

I know my generation is called to be one the greatest yet, and we have so many great vines that are rising up from the ground that could change the world, but we have to learn how to prune. Otherwise, we are going to be stuck with a lot of potential, but what in reality is a lot of watery, wimpy, sucky fruit. It's time for a change.

Take the Simplify Challenge:

1. Look at how you spend your day. Come up with 3 things you do everyday in each category:

a. Time

b. Energy

c. Money

2. Pray

a. What is God pruning from your life?

b. More importantly: What is He leaving behind to flourish and be your life's fruit?

3. Pick up the shears

a. Pick 2 things from each category to eliminate.

b. Simplicity take courage. Don't be afraid to make scary sacrifices. If it is already weak (as in you aren't good at it), or if it is undesirable (like sin, a bad habit, or something you just aren't that fond of), then cut it out! Take drastic measures. Get a flip phone. Quit the job. Sell the car. Stop going out to eat. Break up with the girlfriend. Whatever it is. Take it from Henry Ford, who had to sacrifice a lot to focus on his dream of creating the middle-class automobile: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't - you're right.”

4. Feed your Dreams

a. Take the remaining item from each category and make an intentional, dedicated effort to pour your time, energy and money into those things. The result? 3 vines, just like the grape vine, that hopefully one day will burst forth plump, tasty, nutritious fruit.

b. The grass isn't greener on the other side, it's greener where you water it. And you don't even have to grow where your planted; grow wherever you want to, but you do have to water it. 

c. Have grit. Don't give up. The difference between me and you and the J.K. Rowlings, Pauls, Beethovens, and Henry Fords is not IQ, skill, talent or money; it's grit. Determination that drives forward despite all adversity and odds. 

5. Communicate

a. Many of our most concerted efforts at changing our destiny are foiled due to our lack of effective communication. Tell your parents, significant other, friends, etc. For support, accountability, and so they don't get frustrated with the change. People don't like different, but they can buy in if they feel they are a part of the story. 

b. Put up reminders in your life to remind yourself of your goals. I use the reminder app on my iPhone to set up daily or weekly reminders. The reminder app is a gem, because you make custom reminder lists; like Now, Family, Work, or specialized short term lists (I have one called Operation Future for reminders regarding our move to Charlotte). Setting reminders are also really easy, because you can use Siri and say something simple as "reminder me every Sunday at 3pm to work on my book." Some of my goals a while back were to start working out regularly, take the Sabbath, and to initiate in communication with Sherei. Here is a snapshot of my reminder list:

 

For more information on the topic, I strongly recommend Bill Hybels book: "Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul"

I like the theme of simple living so much, I made a photo blog on tumblr focusing around the theme. Lots of good quotes, nature, and stuff Ron Swanson would like.

Its called 2smplfy.

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